CHARLES E. ZIEGLER
RUSSIA AND THE COUNTRIES OF NORTHEAST ASIA ARE EXPERIENCING internal transformations and shifting international alignments that make the future of the Asia-Pacific region highly uncertain. Moscow’s approaches to Northeast Asia have been influenced by domestic political infighting, economic crisis, regional separatism, and the severe deterioration of the military. The Asian economic crisis of 1997–98, North Korea’s continued development of ballistic missile capabilities, China-Taiwan tensions, plans by the United states and its allies to deploy a theater missile defense in the region, Japan’s persistent economic troubles, and the collapse of the suharto regime in indonesia have altered the region’s strategic calculus.
This paper analyzes the impact of the Soviet breakup on the regional power balance in the Asia-Pacific and on Russia’s foreign policy identity; discusses Moscow’s political, economic, and security ties with the major Northeast Asian nations; and makes some general observations on the implications of changes in Asia for Russian and American security interests.
Three themes emerge from this analysis. First, a more nationalist Russia is seeking to reestablish its influence as a respected great power in the Asia-Pacific. This process began under Boris Yeltsin and has been reaffirmed by Vladimir Putin. Russia’s limited economic and military capabilities, and its ongoing political crisis, make it very unlikely that the Russian Federation will acquire the great power status it seeks. second, policies formulated in Moscow toward Northeast Asia are increasingly at odds with eastern Russia’s regional interests and priorities. Russia’s peculiar form of federalism has introduced a new dynamic into regional politics. Third, while the united states and Russia have similar interests in stabilizing the region, the two differ substantially over China, East Asia’s ascendant power. While both have sought a strategic partnership with Beijing, neither has managed to craft a successful long-term China policy.